If you've visited or volunteered in the Guatemalan Highlands, the chances are you'll already be familiar with the bright yellow doors of El Espacio, the Entremundos office in Xela. You'll certainly have come across their magazine in your travels, a bi-lingual treasure trove of stories about the country's history, culture and volunteer opportunities.
For five years, Entremundos has been a hub and contact point for volunteers and Non Governmental Organisations, in this culturally rich but historically troubled part of Guatemala. The Western Highlands, overwhelmingly indigenous Mayan, were a bastion of resistance to the military dictatorship during the Civil War - and bore the brunt of much of much of the army's repression. The region remains poor but proud, and its beauty and history have made it a popular base for NGO work.
Entremundos was founded because of a perceived lack of communication between these different groups. Through its magazine, website, lectures and database of hundreds of volunteer opportunities, it hooks up volunteers with the right skills and interests to the right organisations. Pop by its offices, and there's always a few fresh faces browsing through the options - everything from women's weaving co-operatives, organic fair-trade coffee farming, to IT support for Indigenous Rights Groups. Increasingly, however, it is using its expertise to reach out to Guatemalan projects and project workers, offering training, information and capacity building.
I was working with a small community radio station, Radio San Pedro, near Lago Atitlan when I first got hold of a copy of the magazine, and heard about Entremundos. At the time, I was experimenting with making radio pieces in English, Spanish, and Tzutuhil, the Mayan language spoken on the Southern shore of the lake. Whilst the station makes some great shows dealing with local issues, I realised that small radio stations like San Pedro do not really have the resources or the experience to make their own news or current affairs program, collecting national and international stories. What was really needed was a show that could be shared amongst those stations, which they could contribute to, and which could be produced in the many different languages spoken in Guatemala - twenty three indigenous languages as well as Spanish - with a version for an international English speaking audience to create contact with groups abroad.
These two radio programs are the result of that idea, and hopefully, just the first stage in this project. Working with Entremundos, I produced two bi-lingual programs, one in Spanish and English, the other in K'iche and Spanish. The shows combine the best articles, news and stories from the magazine, an interview with Rebecca Archer, the new director of Entremundos, poetry, and songs from local trova de musica, La Fonda Del Che. The show is currently being distributed and aired on student and community radio stations around Guatemala; wed like to encourage you to share this unique program with your listeners too.
For more information on Entremundos, see www.entremundos.org
Tom Allan is currently writing a feature length article about trilingual radio work in Guatemala called "Sound Barriers," and is planning a radio feature on the making of the Entremundos Radio Program. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org